Jill Docking says she hopes to take her family's political attitude -- austere but adequate government -- to the Senate floor.
She's seeking Bob Dole's old seat, but Jill Docking invokes the name of another longtime Kansas senator when talking about her political mission.
"I'm being compared by some people to Nancy (Kassebaum), and I'm very flattered by that," said Docking, a Democrat in her first campaign for public office.
Docking said Kassebaum's centrist style appealed to her, and she's hoping that Kansas voters see her as a viable replacement for the out-going senator. The 40-year-old Wichita investment broker is openly courting moderate Republicans.
"I think it's important that moderates get out and vote," she said. "My whole point is that I think it's important that we elect somebody who is centrist. I think we can ill afford to shut down government, like Sam did twice, based on ideology."
She was referring to Sam Brownback, her Republican opponent, who she and other Democrats have painted as a hard-liner more interested in party than country.
Her campaign has issued scores of press releases criticizing Brownback and bearing titles such as "Brownback Sold Out Kansas ...," "NRA Spokesman Charlton Heston Guns for Brownback."
Meanwhile, Brownback has slammed Docking for what he's described as a liberal agenda. Among Brownback's criticisms: Docking, in a questionnaire sent out by a national taxpayers organization, did not indicate support for a balanced budget.
Docking rolled her eyes when asked about the issue.
"My first job is to balance the budget," she said.
She said she did not support a balanced budget amendment that Brownback and other conservative Congress members backed. Instead, she said, she supports a centrist proposal that would balance the budget in seven years while protecting student loans and providing tax relief for middle-income families.
Docking defeated former Gov. Joan Finney in the Aug. 6 primary, receiving 74 percent of the vote. Brownback beat Dole's appointed replacement Sheila Frahm, painting her as a tax-and-spend Republican and stressing she was pro-choice on abortion.
That Brownback calls Docking a liberal doesn't worry her, she said.
"Remember, he called Sheila Frahm a liberal," she said. "And Sheila Frahm votes to the right of Bob Dole. So if she's a liberal, then I'm a liberal."
The wife of former Lt. Gov. Tom Docking, whose father and grandfather were Kansas governors, Docking subscribes to the attitude her father-in-law displayed in four terms as governor.
She has billed herself as conservative on fiscal issues but moderate on social issues.
"I come from a moderate tradition -- austere but adequate," she said.